Next strengthens in the high street

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Like-for-like sales growth of 17 per cent helped Next continue its remarkable recovery since coming close to collapse in the early 1990s. Total sales at the fashion retailer increased 23 per cent to pounds 406.4m on a 5 per cent increase in selling space, boosting profits in the half-year to July by 27 per cent to pounds 56m.

Next's shares, which have been one of the market's best performers since bottoming out at just 13p at the beginning of 1991, fell 23.5p, however, to close at 576.5p as the market worried that sales in the second half to date were starting to flag. "The increase in sales is a lot less than people were expecting," said Nick Bubb, retail analyst at MeesPierson.

Despite the disappointment in the City, Lord Wolfson, chairman, said the results showed the Next brand was making good progress both on the high street and in home shopping. The mail order business saw an 18 per cent rise in customers to 620,000 and sales per customer also rose.

Investment column, page 20